The IT architecture of the future is defined as agile and flexible, as capable and adaptable and relentlessly innovative. It must shift with changing market and customer expectations and it needs to upgrade and evolve on demand. Gartner has predicted that 2017 will see artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent apps, the digital twin, the mesh app, the service architecture and the digital technology platforms all go one step further, each element handing the organisation the key to functionality and IT infrastructure agility.
Then, on top of all this delicious development and design, comes the demands of big data, an ever-petulant child demanding more infrastructure, tools, analysis and capability. The enterprise must find a new way of working within this maelstrom of tech and trend, a way that capitalises on capability without losing out to evolution. So, no pressure then…
“Organisations must realise that having the drive to be a disruptor is not enough; they need to create an environment that allows them to push the boundaries,” says Craig Holmes, vice president, Cognitive Solutions, IBM MEA IOT. “One of the challenges facing businesses to truly change into agile and flexible IT infrastructure is the IT environment. Features such as cloud platforms, the ability to integrate structured and unstructured data in real-time, and the use of intelligent systems sit at the centre of this change.”
Of course, every expert, vendor and company cites the cloud as the biggest driver of this shift in attitude and infrastructure. Forrester has said the cloud market will hit even higher speeds of adoption in 2017 as it is increasingly seen as a viable space within which to run core applications, especially for the enterprise.
In their report ‘Prediction 2017: CIOs push for speed amid volatility’, Forrester stated that there will be a 2.9% increase in tech spending, impacted by the economy and uncertainty, and this will force CIOs to leverage the cloud to access new technologies and short-term cost benefits. The research firm has also predicted that agility and DevOps will dominate the market as organisations say goodbye to stability and predictability, and hello to complexity.
The rise of DevOps
“Businesses need to look at moving from siloed Dev and Ops teams to DevOps models that provide continuous delivery and integration at their core,” says Amit Kaundinya, practice manager, Digital, BPM and Integration, WPM Limited. “One of the key elements of DevOps is to ensure that infrastructure and the development platforms are available as a service to developers and can be provisioned to end developers, as and when they need the same. This means that developers do not have to worry about getting infrastructure and platforms available, which used to take a long time, and can focus on development activities instead.”
The question is, how does the business reinvent its existing IT infrastructure to create the agile and scalable framework of the future without compromising its integrity and legacy infrastructure? The first step is to plan for the environment. Infrastructure needs to be deployed on the needs of the business and not on the hype that surrounds the technology. Again, cloud is fundamental to this, with Forrester pointing to the fact that it is already being used to mitigate back-end complexity. Moving forward, infrastructure is likely to become more focused on containers and DevOps, both tools making inroads into connectivity, simplicity and adaptability on the fly. This will be further driven by open source platforms and solutions that allow for the organisation to scale swiftly with faster time to market.
“Select technologies that will scale with your business needs,” says Inus Dreckmeyr, CEO, Netshield South Africa. “Ultimately, it’s about simplicity and costs: reducing these is what is driving the move to more agile and flexible IT infrastructure. What really sits at the heart of this is IT's desire to find a way to reduce costs by simplifying technology, making it easier, faster to deploy and simple to maintain.”
An agile mind
Of course, Miro Walker, CEO of Cognifide, points out that while the technology for agility and architectural reinvention remains available and inventive, there is a need for the organisation to also change its mindset. Agility is more than a solution; it’s a way of operating a business from the top down.
“It may require new leadership,” says Walker. “This kind of thinking must come from the top and is about accepting that IT, and technology in general, is a core strategic pillar for growth and not just a back-end function. People refer to the silicon boardroom because IT and technology are now a C-Suite challenge and a C-Suite opportunity. The agile mindset has to cascade throughout the organisation as it is not just about technology, but about people.”
The build is no longer the end of the journey - it’s just the beginning. To fully realise the potential of technology and capture its capability, IT infrastructure must start small, focus on simple and be ready for change. This doesn’t mean that the organisation should devolve into a Crouching Tiger ninja-style approach to technology, twisting to catch whatever new trends come its way. No, IT infrastructure must be strategic and focused on the core of the business, remaining available, optimised and secure.
“The key question becomes, what problem are we trying to solve or what unfulfilled need are we trying to address,” adds Anton Herbst, group strategy, Tarsus Technology Group. “The user and the customer have a job to do, and IT has to enable the answer.”
However, it is Guy Whitcroft, CEO, Westcon-Comstor Southern Africa, who takes a measure of the pressure put on the organisation by IT, infrastructure, innovation and invention.
“To be honest, I think technologies such as AI, intelligent apps, the digital twin, mesh app and digital technology platforms won’t be mainstream or widely used in South Africa in the next year. While they will be found in pockets of technologically-savvy or digitally geared environments such as industrial and financial services, where digital innovation is leading the way, I think 2017 is a bit optimistic and they will continue to be the exception as opposed to the rule,” he concludes.
The future: Reinvented
What trends and technology are set to reinvent the wheel, yet again, over the next year? Here we look at what the experts predict over the next 12 to 18 months and what technology is likely to lead the way when it comes to enterprise adoption and
The Internet of Things
This is one tech that is set to get bigger, so much bigger, over the next year to ten years. It’s the ideal platform to give IT intelligent views of environment and infrastructure.
Intelligent systems that think like humans and redefine the boundaries of what we previously thought possible. This is a future that isn’t so much tomorrow as it is now-now. “Over time, this new technology will serve to transform jobs, businesses, customer experiences and entire industries.” Craig Holmes, vice president, Cognitive Solutions, IBM MEA IOT
Forrester believes that AR will continue its slip into mainstream with appearances on mobile and the development of personalised experiences. AI and cognitive computing will continue their integration into existing architecture so that the business can stay at the head of the innovation curve.
AI conversational interfaces
Siri, Cortana and Alexa may still have a few, well, kinks, but they are far more advanced than technology could have imagined just five years ago. This type of conversational interface is about to change games over the next few years. “The most significant development is that AI can now learn. This was demonstrated this year by Google DeepMind, when AlphaGo beat a human at Go. This has huge implications for the way in which man will interact with machine in the future,” says Miro Walker, CEO of Cognifide.
The enterprise has always wanted a crystal ball and this technology is doing a very good job of building it.
“A predictive analytics engine collecting data from industrial machines on a customer’s premise can automatically alert a field technician to replace a part that indicates it is approaching end of life before there is downtime,” says Kerry Hope, Business Development manager, Magic Software South Africa.